nytheatre.com review by Heather McAllister
December 6, 2009
My companion (and 10-year-old son) and I were both surprised at how "difficult" the volunteered hero was during the performance of Adventure Theater! we attended. We were immediately worried that he would ruin the show. Although adorable on the outside, he soon proved himself to be as rotten as most children can be, mine included. His "skills" for the theatrical venture included fake burping, excessive farting, monosyllabic grunts for answers, and making the "coo-koo" sign behind the back of the theatrical emissary Michael Durkin who bravely led us on our adventure. Still, we were instantly engrossed and filled with a kind of horrible glee to see how the amiable Durkin and his partner, the equally delightful Shaundra Noll, would pull this off.
They succeeded 100 percent. From the thrilling intro music lifted from adventure greats Indiana Jones and Superman, Adventure Theater! got my cynical 10-year-old out of his seat. He thoroughly enjoyed himself, as did I. The two actors structure the play, leading volunteers from the audience in creating the story. With their superb improv skills, they weave a charming and silly tale.
Children's theatre is for brave, hearty actors, and Durkin and Noll are more than up to the task. They kept smiling, they kept their focus and their enthusiastic charm throughout. I really loved that the concept of the performance is that there are "no wrong answers" suggested by the children, every silly or strange submission is treated with the same level of respect. When my son was asked what the princess did each day, he answered—with tween insouciance—"Die." Durkin immediately acted it out, and made us all laugh. Even my snarky 10-year-old.
The best part of this show is how inclusive it is. I felt so much that I was in on the joke. I was immediately reminded of the film Soapdish where Kevin Kline tries his best to perform Death of a Salesman for a horribly unappreciative Florida dinner theatre, his acting "pearls before swine." In this case, the pearls go to the appreciative parents, and the swinelettes thoroughly enjoy the trough of theatrical goodies.